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Most people have no idea that body-focused repetitive behaviours (BFRBs) even exist. If you haven’t encountered the term until now, BFRBs are a group of mental health disorders characterized by repetitive and compulsive behaviours.
These behaviours aren’t just fixations or habits – they result in damage to one's body in some way. Some examples include hair-pulling or trichotillomania, skin-picking or dermatillomania, and nail-biting or onychophagia, among others.
BFRBs can have a significant impact on both a person's physical and mental health and well-being, but fortunately, there are effective strategies for managing these behaviours. Below are 10 tips you can keep in mind to manage and hopefully help treat your BFRBs.
Triggers are stimuli or situations that can lead to the onset of a BFRB, like a stressful event or a social gathering that you don’t want to be part of. Understanding your triggers is an essential first step in managing your BFRB so that you gradually keep your behaviours non-destructive to both yourself and sometimes others.
Meanwhile, some common triggers for BFRBs include stress, anxiety, boredom, and frustration. A good way to get started on this is keeping a journal that can help you identify your triggers. Through the journal, you can develop strategies for managing, avoiding, or minimizing them.
Getting its roots from Buddhism, mindfulness is a technique that involves being present in the moment and focusing your attention on your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without any judgment.
Mindfulness can be helpful in managing BFRBs because it can help you become more conscious of your urges and therefore more capable of resisting them. Some mindfulness techniques you can use include deep breathing, meditation, and yoga.
Some things that can help distract you from the urge to follow a BFRB include engaging in alternative activities. Drawing, knitting, reading, or exercise are among the activities you can choose and enjoy.
For the best results, pick activities that’s easily accessible to you, and actually try to engage in these activities whenever you feel the urge to actualize a BFRB.
To truly manage and treat BFRBs, you’ll need an excellent support system. This includes seeking out supportive friends and family members who can help you stay accountable for your behavior and even offer encouragement.
You can also create a physical environment that’s conducive to managing your BFRBs. An example of what you can do is to remove objects that trigger your behaviour or create a safe, calming space that you can retreat to.
Self-care is essential in managing BFRBs – and this isn’t just about retail therapy or eating your favorite cakes all at once. Self-care can also be getting enough sleep, having a healthy diet, and exercising regularly.
See to it that you make self-care a priority. Incorporate your self-care practices into your day-to-day routines. You may also want to consider activities like meditation, yoga, or therapy as part of your self-care routine.
Professional help is instrumental in managing BFRBs, as they’re challenging to manage without an organized treatment plan. Some types of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) proved to be effective in treating BFRB. Meanwhile, some steps involved in CBT are identifying the triggers and teaching coping mechanisms to prevent the recurrence of behaviour.
CBT is a type of therapy that’s designed to help people change negative thoughts and behaviours, and it involves working with a therapist to develop new coping skills and strategies for managing BFRBs. Meanwhile, some specific types of CBT that work well for BFRBs are comprehensive behavior (ComB) treatment for BFRBs and habit reversal training (HRT).
Archways Centre for CBT is a reliable source of evidence-based therapies for BFRBs. Archways is an Institutional Member of the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF). When booking an appointment at Archways, you will be matched to a therapist who is a professional member of the TLC Foundation for BFRBs, and a graduate of a professional training institute that has equipped them with a specialized, one-of-a-kind, comprehensive CBT-based training for treating BFRBs.
The treatment approach used at Archways is compassionate and collaborative to help individuals with BFRBs work through their challenges and live their best lives.
Fidget toys are small toys that can help with your BFRBs, as they can be manipulated and played with to distract you from your urges. They can be easily carried with you and can be discreetly used when you feel the urge to engage in a BFRB. Some examples of fidget toys are fidget spinners, stress balls, or Rubik's cubes.
Developing a positive self-image can be challenging for those with BFRBs, and this is mostly due to the fact that that their behaviours can lead to feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment.
It’s crucial for people with BFRBs to see themselves in a positive light so that they manage and eventually treat BFRBs effectively. This can involve reframing negative self-talk like “I’m a hopeless case” and focusing on strengths and achievements. You may also want to seek out support groups or therapy, and make it a habit to encourage yourself with positivity - “I can get through this.”
To stay motivated and focused on managing your BFRBs, you must learn how to set achievable and realistic goals. These goals can be small or large, but they must be intentional and specific.
For instance, rather than setting a goal of how much to limit the picking or pulling, focus on checking your boxes using tips listed above, and then the reduction in pulling and picking will follow. It’s also good to celebrate your successes so that there’s positive reinforcement. More importantly, avoid being hard on yourself if you make mistakes.
While it can be challenging for those with BFRBs, self-compassion helps you fast-track your progress. It involves being kind and understanding to yourself, even when you make mistakes or experience setbacks. Make sure that you treat yourself as you would treat a friend, rather than being overly critical or judgmental. Self-compassion can be practiced through positive self-talk, mindfulness techniques, and meditation.
Managing BFRBs can be challenging, but with the right tools and strategies, it’s doable and possible. Understanding your triggers, practicing mindfulness, engaging in alternative activities, creating a supportive environment, developing a self-care routine, seeking professional help, using fidget toys, developing a positive self-image, setting achievable goals, and practicing self-compassion can all be effective strategies for managing BFRBs especially if determined to be best suited for a client.
Archways Centre for CBT has always relied on evidence-based therapies for BFRBs and is always willing to help individuals manage their BFRBs effectively through the right exercises and necessary strategies. If you are struggling with a BFRB, know that you are not alone, and there’s always help available. Give us a call at (519) 472-6612 or visit us today.